Oral Presentation The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2014

HENMT1 is involved in the stabilization of pachytene piRNAs, retrotransposon silencing and regulating the spermiogenic program (#137)

Shu Ly Lim 1 , Duangporn Jamsai 1 , Hamish S. Scott , R. Daniel Kortschak , Dave M. Lawrence , Zhi Peng Qu , Anna-Lena Hempfling , Martin Bergmann , David L. Adelson , Moira O’Bryan
  1. Monash University, Clayton, Vic, Australia

The Piwi−interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway is an RNA silencing pathway that represses the expression transposable elements (TE) in the gonads via binding of piRNAs to their complimentary RNA targets. Mammalian piRNAs are 26−31 nt in length and are 2’−O−methylated at their 3’ termini. Although the biogenesis of piRNAs remains unclear, Hen1, a plant microRNA (miRNA) 2’−O−methyltransferase, is known to play an important role in piRNA stabilization. Deletion of hen1 in Zebrafish reduced piRNA content and led to an exonuclease−mediated shortening of the piRNAs that resulted in female sterility. In order to understand the function of mouse HENMT1, we have generated a mouse model containing a point mutation in the Henmt1 gene that produces truncated and unstable Henmt1 transcripts. Henmt1 homozygous mutant males are sterile. They produce greatly reduced numbers of sperm with round heads, and the epididymis are virtually devoid of sperm. Deep sequencing and biochemical analyses revealed the loss of HENMT1 function results in piRNA instability i.e. the presence of 3’-end truncated piRNAs and significantly increased piRNA uridylation which may lead to RNA decay. Furthermore, increased expression of several transposable element (TEs) subtypes was found in Henmt1 mutants using real-time PCR, transcriptome analysis and in situ hybridisation. Transcriptome analyses also suggested the premature expression of many spermiogenic genes during meiosis in Henmt1 mutants. However, how piRNAs regulate spermiogenic gene expression remains unclear. Our preliminary findings with histone chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and quantitative PCR suggested a role for piRNA in promoting a more heterochromatic state in meiotic cells similar to that seen in Drosophila. In summary, our data suggests an important role for HENMT1 in regulating pachytene piRNA stability, post-natal TEs repression and the translational regulation of haploid germ cell mRNAs.